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Board questioned on plans for nuclear emergencies

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The Town Board was asked at its Tuesday work session about emergency plans in the event of an accident at the Millstone nuclear power plant. From left, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Peter Reich and Councilman Ed Brown. Councilwoman Chris Lewis was present but not shown in the photo.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The Town Board was asked at its Tuesday work session about emergency plans in the event of an accident at the Millstone nuclear power plant. From left, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Peter Reich and Councilman Ed Brown. Councilwoman Chris Lewis was present but not shown in the photo.

A resident asked the Town Board Tuesday if it was up to speed with notification plans in the event of a nuclear accident at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut.

Vincent Novak noted that in March 2011 the board said it would be looking into developing a plan with the police department since the Island lies within an “emergency planning zone” (EPZ). The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets out a 50 mile radius for an EPZ around nuclear plants, which “are designed to avoid or reduce [dangers] from potential ingestion of radioactive materials” by contaminated food and water, according to the USNRC.

“Did anything come of that?” Mr. Novak asked, later noting, “this room is 18.6 miles from Millstone.”

He asked if the town had a Federal Emergency Management Agency “radiological emergency plan,” a public notification system, required by law.

“I don’t believe we do,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said, but the board was  “working on it.”

Recently, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who represents Shelter Island, asked for an enquiry into what effect heated water discharged from the Millstone plant is having on the ecology of Long Island Sound and surrounding waters.

The FEMA notification system coordinates with state and local governments “to ensure that adequate capabilities exist to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from incidents involving commercial nuclear power plants,” according to FEMA.

The notification system involves a siren that alerts the public to tune to a certain radio frequency for information in the event of a nuclear accident.

“Notification works two ways, “ Mr. Novak said. “If there was something happening at Millstone and it wasn’t going to affect us, then you notify the public that we’re OK, instead of having panic.”

Councilman Peter Reich said that in the town budget for next year there are funds for a public notification system called “CodeRed,” run by a Florida-based company, Emergency Communications Network.

CodeRed is a web-based emergency notification service that contacts residents with important information and directions through multiple platforms, including voicemail, texts, email, social media and a mobile alert app.

CodeRed can be used for any emergency management situation, including chemical spills, terrorist threats, drinking water contamination, power outages and police work, such as a missing child or hostage situations.

But Mr. Novak said Millstone, by law, has to notify the town directly of any nuclear accident.

“For years we’ve been under the radar on this,” Mr. Novak said. “I think it’s time to get on board, hold FEMA’s feet to the fire and make it happen.”

Supervisor Dougherty thanked Mr. Novak “for the heads up.”

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